Contrast Blend Modes

blenderThis part of our Blend Mode series covers the 8 Blend Modes which are generally referred to as the Contrast Modes and are a mixture between the previously discussed Darken and Lighten Modes. To demonstrate the impact of the various blend modes we have chosen two wildly different images; the first, a colour image will act as the ‘Base colour’ whilst the second, a black and white image of the black to white tonal ‘zones’ will act as the ‘blend Colour’.


These are the original images which will be used for the ‘base colour’ layer and ‘blend colour’ layer.

contrast start imagestart blend colour







If the colours of the blend colour are darker than the base they are multiplied, if lighter they are screened. This typically produces  a pleasant contrast but with saturated colours which may require you to reduce the opacity of the ‘blend colour’ layer.



Soft Light is very much like Overlay. It applies either a darkening or lightening effect depending on luminance, but with the opposite logic to Overlay which makes for a subtle result without the harsh contrast.



Combines the Multiply and Screen Blending Modes and the results are normally quite intense as if a strong spotlight was being shone on image. If the blend layer is darker than 50% gray if multiplies otherwise it screens. Hard Light is actually closer to Overlay that it is to some variation on Soft Light.



Best considered as an extreme version of the Overlay mode. It darkens or lightens colours by depending on the blend colour – If it is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened by decreasing the contrast, otherwise the image is darkened by increasing the contrast.



Darkens or lightens colours by varying the brightness depending on the blend colour. If the blend color is lighter than 50% gray, the image brightness is increased – darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened by decreasing the brightness.



An extreme Blending Mode that performs a Darken and Lighten Blending Mode simultaneously. It can result in patches or blotches and as can easily be seen, it completely removes all mid-tones. This mode can be useful for adding special effects to an image.



Another extreme mode which reduces the image to solid and primary colours viz: red, green, blue, cyan, yellow, magenta, white, or black. As there is no gradation of colours, this mode produces a posterised effect.


Naturally the impact of any of the Blend Modes may be decreased by varying the Opacity; it may even be reinforced by duplicating one of the layers or even adding additional layers. It all depends on your artistic direction.

If you have any actions, presets, tips, worked examples  you would be happy to contribute and help others get a good start with their photo processing, please get in touch – pay your knowledge forward !

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